The Milwaukee Bucks say they were inspired by the shooting of Jacob Blake and other recent tragedies involving Black people and police as the sports world reacts to the boycott
The sports world made history today as the Milwaukee Bucks took a united stand against racism and police brutality today, boycotting their potential closeout game 5 playoff game against the Orlando Magic.
The team said they decided to do so after the police shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake. Blake was shot in front of his children when attempting to get into his car after reportedly breaking up a fight between two women. The shooting took place in Kenosha, Wisconsin, a city just 45 minutes from where the Bucks play in Milwaukee.
Afterwards, the players met with media in the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida to issue a statement as a team.
“The past four months have shed a light on the ongoing racial injustices facing our African-American communities. Citizens around the country have used their voices and platforms to speak out against these wrongdoings,” the statement read.
“Over the last few days in our home state of Wisconsin, we’ve seen the horrendous video of Jacob Blake being shot in the back seven times by a police officer in Kenosha, and the additional shooting of protestors. Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball.”
The statement continued with a call for accountability.
“When we take the court and represent Milwaukee and Wisconsin, we are expected to play at a high level, give maximum effort and hold each other accountable. We hold ourselves to that standard, and in this moment, we are demanding the same from our lawmakers and law enforcement.”
The Bucks’ boycott sent ripples through the sports world and the WNBA, who are sequestered in Bradenton, Florida, and who have been active voices in the league’s effort against social injustice, decided to join the men in not playing tonight’s scheduled games. Members of the teams assembled to play kneeled together and then issued a statement.
The Atlanta Dream’s Elizabeth Williams read it, saying in part:
“What we have seen over the past few months and most recently with the brutal police shooting of Jacob Blake is overwhelming and while we hurt for Jacob and his community, we also have an opportunity to keep the focus on the issues and demand change.”
The Milwaukee Brewers, scheduled to play the Cincinnati Reds tonight, also joined the boycott and did not play.
The Orlando Magic had no prior knowledge of the boycott but in a statement from the team, owned by the DeVos family, which includes Education Secretary Betsy Devos‘ husband, said they were supportive of the move.
Orlando Magic player Michael Carter-Williams issued a statement on behalf of the team.
“We weren’t given advanced notice about the decision but we are happy to stand in solidarity with Milwaukee, Jacob, and the entire NBA community,” he said. “Change is coming.”
The Bucks ownership and management said that while they also didn’t know about the boycott beforehand, they stood with their players.
“We fully support our players and the decision they made. Although we did not know beforehand, we would have wholeheartedly agreed with them. The only way to bring change is to shine a light on the racial injustices that are happening in front of us. Our players have done that and we will continue to stand alongside them and demand accountability and change,” the Bucks said in a statement.
Support from the rest of the sports world was swift and vocal. TNT co-host Kenny Smith walked off the set of Inside the NBA in solidarity with his former colleagues in an extraordinary TV moment.
Support from all parts of the sports universe came quickly as players from the NBA, NFL, and other sports figures and teams responded to the boycott. Tennis star Naomi Osaka announced she would not play in her upcoming semifinal match in the Southern Open, and the Los Angeles Dodgers announced they would sit out tonight’s game against the San Francisco Giants.
Major League Soccer announced that they would also boycott their next games in support of the Milwaukee Bucks and the other teams.
FUCK THIS MAN!!!! WE DEMAND CHANGE. SICK OF IT
— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 26, 2020
Former President Barack Obama saluted the players for their advocacy and shared a clip of LA Clippers coach Doc Rivers. Rivers spoke of his frustrations about unarmed Black people being killed without consequence.
But perhaps the night’s most moving commentary came from former NBA star Chris Webber, who lamented having to explain the constant deaths to his young relatives, remembered how inspired he felt when Charles Barkley came to his high school when he was a teen and encouraged the league to continue its efforts to advocate for change.
“I have young nephews that I have to explain about death before they’ve even seen it in a movie,” Webber said. “If not now, when? If not during a pandemic, and countless lives being lost, if not know, when?”
“We know nothing is going to change tomorrow,” Webber said, invoking the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Medgar Evers. “We understand that it’s not going to end right away. But don’t listen to these people telling you to not do anything because it’s not going to end right away. “
Webber said he encouraged young social justice advocates to continue the fight.
“You are starting something for the next generation to take over…. I applaud it because it is the young people leading the way and I applaud them.”
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